Most major cities in the world are situated on rivers and waterways. Ulaanbaatar about thirty years ago had the Selbe, Dunde, Uliastai, Tuul rivers. One by one they died out and today only Tuul river is left. Even this one looks like it will soon disappear. During the last ten years the river has broken off in several places and the fish began to die off. Looks like the residents of Ulaanbaatar, us too, we are headed in the same direction. Why Tuul River is becoming like this has already been diagnosed.
We all know well the main three of the many elements that are causing the pollution and disruption of Tuul River. Factories that clean, process and rinse leathers, skins, wools and cashmeres and other animal raw materials with chemicals.
In Ulaanbaatar alone, there are 3 leather processing factories and 48 cashmere-wool manufacturers relying upon the waters of Tuul river. All of these factories use 30 different types of chemicals to clean their products and to de-hair cashmere-wool. It is a vandal act to pour into rivers the factory waste supposedly cleaned with machinery that has long been technologically outdated.
Another cause of river pollution is due to soil contamination, exterior toilet burrows, waste dumps, “ger” district and construction housing sewage water. Even though they say that the city sanitation services and facilities were renewed with the aid of Kingdom of Spain, anyone who goes to Tuul River’s basin like those who live near by would not believe that the waste was cleaned. Last week, parliament’s members from the Food and Agriculture Regular Committee, the Ministry of Nature and Environment, the State Professional Inspection, the Mineral Resources Authority, the National Investigation Agency officers and other experts personally witnessed the unbelievable colours and odours produced by Tuul River.
Thirdly, near Tuul River’s basins operate 17 gravel producers in total of 20 sand-gravel pits and other licensed and unauthorized gravel-extracting companies. Most of these companies that quarry sand-gravel do not perform rehabilitation procedures, at times they even desert the sight altogether because their directors have rooted strong “horns and hooves” in visible or hidden political connections. The grandiose inspection group described above performs this environmental check-up every year. Last August, the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, the Water Authority, the National Investigation Agency joint operation inspectors examined Tuul River sources and basins and fussed over the “discovery” of dire pollution.
City, state government authorities and officials of all levels each year make big and small exams, have their photographs published by the press accompanied with giant statements. But the noise dies down very soon and things remain the same. Ulaanbaatar city authorities and political leaders know very well the three main factors mentioned above that are polluting Tuul River. They even know how to eliminate these factors. It is not rocket science after all.
The required measures were drawn out long time ago. For the first cause, to build the necessary infrastructure outside of Ulaanbaatar city’s peripheries so as to concentrate in one area factories that process animal-based raw materials. For the second cause, to build new sanitation and purification facilities equipped with modern day technology. For the third cause, to permit extraction only in a few designated locations and transport the materials with only specialized equipment in an orderly organised manner. So knowing all the causes of river pollution and shrinkage, as well as the means to eliminate these causes, why nothing is being done still remains a riddle.
In democratic countries all public properties including mountains and waters, rivers and gardens, green areas and school/hospital parks, areas near infrastructure are represented by the local citizens who make sure that people follow the rules. Unfortunately in Mongolia we cheat during elections and a few individuals pretending to represent citizens in reality do their personal business through their authority.
The group of individuals who slid into positions of government leadership and urban-rural authorities firstly sell the above-mentioned state-owned properties for personal profit. The greatest damage is on the natural environment, its ecosystems lose equilibrium, residents suffer from degrading health and the capital city is faced with water shortage.
All this tragedy is irrelevant to the state and especially to the city authorities, who distribute amongst themselves and to their care-giving political party the profits from selling land. They serve their duty to political affiliates as long as the benefactors subsidize election expenses and continue to protect them from criminal charges.
For them, the fact that Ulaanbaatar’s natural environment is degrading, poisoning children and elderly, slowly killing people as it destroys their health, is all a statistical fact and nothing more. Last week, the former mayor of Ulaanbaatar, Ts. Batbayar announced “to issue a directive for the protection of Tuul River. The proposal includes a list of duties and responsibilities of related companies and provides instructs operation procedures” Because this individual did not know his operation procedures while in office he had given permissions to build and extract materials from all over Tuul River shores.
This chap continues to insist “not having given almost any land permissions when I was in office, previous mayors had [already] done so.” He was not aware that if there were any wrong decisions made previously it was his duty to correct them. The present mayor of Ulaanbaatar G. Munkhbayar does not appear to know his operation procedures either and waits for the instructions of this directive. At any rate, our last three mayors permitted to build residential districts in Zaisan and on Marshall’s Bridge without any planning or consideration.
Because of extensive cutting of shrubs that pull up 2.0m deep ground water and building construction instead, ground-water has moved even deeper and Tuul River’s sources have diminished, its waters have shrunk. Thus Tuul and Ulaanbaatar’s residents have turned into an experimentation tested by a few individuals and are finally going to be left without drinking water to dry like the rest of the fish in Tuul River. They say fish is the only animal that keeps silence when it is captured, stays silent when it is skinned and definitely silent when it is fried. The citizens of Ulaanbaatar hopefully have not all turned into fish. Isn’t it time to elect the mayor ourselves to rise against the disregard for our interests, and hold responsible those who trespass our property and kill our Tuul River?
Translated by J.Ariunaa
June 28, 2011